“We all would laugh because president Geingob would say, ‘Hurricane Katrina’ has arrived. But he would not allow others to call me ‘Hurricane’. He would say in his particular voice: “Only I can call her ‘Hurricane’ but to you, she is my minister of education, arts and culture,” said Katrina Hanse-Himarwa yesterday from her hospital bed.
Hanse-Himarwa was the chairperson of president Hage Geingob’s campaign team from 2012 to 2019 that was behind the rise of Geingob to the party and country’s Presidency.
“At the time when it was clear Hage was standing as a candidate, party members were afraid to come out and support him openly. We were only a small group. The fear had to do with Geingob being the first non-Oshiwambo speaking candidate standing for the Swapo presidency.
We saw salient tribalism in the country and the party,” said Hanse-Himarwa.
The idea of a non-Oshiwambo president was first lauded publicly by the late deputy minister of youth, national service and sport Kazenambo Kazenambo in 2010 and would become a litmus test for Swapo, a predominantly Oshiwambo speaking peoples’ party, on whether democracy and unity across all lines were real.
“I came out when a local newspaper called me and asked me whether I support Geingob and I said, ‘Yes, so what?’ I mean this was a person who would not condemn a person who condemned him. “While knowing who was speaking ill of him and there was a chance for him to deal with that person, he would say the positive things he knew about that person and would discipline us from being nasty.
Thereafter, people started coming out to form his team, said Hanse-Himarwa.
This team comprised the late Nicky Iyambo, current president Nangolo Mbumba, Pohamba Shifeta, Obeth Kandjoze, Amos Shiyuka, Neville Andre, Marius Sheya, James Uerikua, Margaret Mensah-Williams, Sacky Shangala, Kisco Sinvula, Stevo Leukes Masilo, Vincent Likoro and Peter Katjavivi, as the most prominent and who in turn formed the former president’s inner circle. “Hage put his trust and loyalty in this team. We did the same. We led a very technical type of political campaign to gain him the presidency. We were by undermined a minority group with an unprecedented candidate.
“We looked at the strengths and weaknesses of each region, visited them and ensured they were migrating to Hage’s team. We knew our Constitution and every other document governing the country and Swapo. We made sure to be a few steps ahead of the other two teams at all times. And that is how we got the votes at the 2013 and 2019 congress,” said the chairperson.
Hanse-Himarwa was diagnosed with cancer two years ago.
“When president Geingob left for the United States of America, I texted him saying: “Go with God. We are standing behind you. Your sickness is our sickness and your health is the nation’s health. We will see you shortly. He requested the first lady to text me back and say: Katrina, you are too kind. While you should be worried about your own health, you are worried about mine.
I receive your words and accept them dearly.” Since I was diagnosed, he was sick with me, stood with me and supported me financially, emotionally and in every way,” said Hanse-Himarwa. But they also faced turbulent times when she was found guilty of graft allegations in 2019 and had to resign as minister of basic education, arts and culture.
“People were looking at me, saying what will Hage do now with his blue-eyed girl. Because of the relationship we had. I had to go to him to avoid placing him in an awkward position. ‘Well done good son of God. You have accomplished your mission’.”
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